MCN Guest Blog

Summer Baseball Heats Up On Cable

Ratings Rise During Dog Days 8/09/2014 9:45 AM


As we enter into the dog days of summer, the Major League Baseball season really starts to heat up. And by the start of August, with two-thirds of the season already in the books, more than just a few baseball fans begin to take a cold, hard view of their home team’s chances, which typically goes something like this


  1. “It’s time to start thinking about football” (sorry Cubbies); or,
  2. “Hook or crook, my team is still in this thing and we may just find a way to squeak into the playoffs” (dream on Mets fans); or,
  3. “My team is a beast and now’s the time to put down the hammer to secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs” (we see you Oakland).


Bottom line: If last season is any indication, August is the month when baseball viewership rises (+18% vs April – July) as the season meanders past its half-way point and baseball teams ready themselves for the home stretch run. (See chart above; Source: Viamedia analysis of Rentrak TV Essentials Data (Telecast Summary Report) for 2013 Major League Baseball game telecasts on ESPN, ESPN2, WGN, MLB, TBS; estimated average household ratings are based on a weight-average.)


I’ll leave it to others to debate whether or not football has displaced baseball as our “American Pastime”, but when it comes to the sheer number of games that appear on national cable practically every day, there is no argument – baseball, hands down. And based on our analysis of Rentrak data through the month of July, we are seeing a +20% increase in the number of baseball games on cable this season versus year ago levels:



Month / Year

Number of Games

Duration of Games (in mins.)

April 2014



April 2013






May 2014



May 2013






June 2014



June 2013






July 2014



July 2013




Source: Viamedia analysis of Rentrak TV Essentials Data (Telecast Summary Report) by month for 2014 and 2013 Major League Baseball game telecasts on ESPN, ESPN2, WGN, MLB, plus FOX Sports 1 in 2014 and TBS in 2013.


Reflecting both the significant growth in network cable content, as well as increased local market demand, here at Viamedia we have seen significant advertising growth in the markets we serve. For example, for all of last season, we ran over 24,000 local cable spots within MLB games appearing on national cable outlets. This season, through the month of July, we have already surpassed that figure -- over 27,000 spots:


Source: Viamedia internal analysis of Sports & High Profile Tracker data for MLB games for the months of April – September, 2013 and April – July, 2014.


A sure sign of growing local advertiser interest: for the entire season last year (April – September, 2013), 517 local advertisers invested in Viamedia baseball inventory. This season, so far, (through the month of July, 2014), 527 advertisers have appeared on local cable TV. So, in essence, with one-third of the 2014 baseball season still to be played, Viamedia has already signed up more advertisers than all of last year. And in terms of our local clients’ investment in cable advertising, total dollars are up +40% (i.e., first four month of the season versus year ago levels.)



If there has been one overwhelming consistency in local advertising, it’s the sheer volume of auto manufacturer and auto dealership dollars flowing to baseball. Last season, 59% of Viamedia ad dollars were within the auto category. This season, so far, 56%. Rounding out the top 5 local advertising categories in 2014: financial services; hardware and home improvement; sporting and outdoor recreation goods; and, medical / health care.


As of this writing, we are well into the warm summer days of August and, before you know it, we’ll be headed for the stretch run when division races start heating up for real. And based on what we’ve seen so far in 2014, the demand for baseball on cable has already reached a fever pitch.



Jonathan Sims is vice president of media research at Viamedia